Byron quilters hope to comfort Newtown victims’ families

Sun News correspondentJanuary 23, 2013 

BYRON -- The Comforting Quilters have a daunting task ahead of them, but it’s one they know they’re up to and that their hearts are fully in.

On Saturday, the group began hand-making memorial quilts for the families of each of the 20 children and six adults whose lives were taken in the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Each of the quilts is being made of various green and white materials, the school’s colors.

In addition to making the quilts, the group is going a step further and personalizing each one by embroidering squares in the quilt’s four corners. One corner will say in memory of the one who died; another corner will carry a green angel emblem that has come to represent Sandy Hook Elementary; another will contain something representing each victim’s interests or hobbies; and the final will carry the mark of Byron’s Comforting Quilters.

“I know that (6-year-old) Emilie Parker was all about pink,” said Julie Love, who leads and helped found the Comforting Quilters group in 2010. “That will be part of her personalization for the quilt. Emilie was one of the young people who died, and she and I are from the same hometown -- Ogden, Utah. The connection I felt with her sort of began the idea for this, but we knew we had to make quilts for everyone.”

Love said the group found information online to use to personalize each quilt. She said she believes each one they make will convey the same sense of love, comfort and care she’s seen in others who have received the group’s handiwork.

“In 2010, we started making quilts for people in need,” Love said. “At first, it was for people in hospice care, but then we started making them for other people we knew or heard about. Maybe it was someone who was ill or was recovering from surgery. Some have been for those who have lost a loved one or who have had a baby. Others have been for cancer patients.

“We’ve had people tell us they carry them with them to the doctor’s or to their chemotherapy. Those rooms can be cold, and the blankets are warm, and they’re also meaningful. It’s kind of like carrying a hug with you. Prior to this, we’ve made and given away about 25 or 30 quilts.”

Love said in making the quilts, there’s always a sense of connection with the person it’s going to. She’s sure the same will be true as the Sandy Hook project progresses.

Carla Chidester, whom Love described as her cohort in quilting, said Comforting Quilters always makes lap quilts to give away. She said they are about 36-inches square. Although the Sandy Hook quilts will each have various green and white patterned squares, she said they will all have the same hunter green backing and sashing.

Love said the group will have to cut about 12,000 square pieces to make the quilts. She estimated it takes about 12 man-hours for each quilt. The group will work two Saturdays a month. Love said she hopes all the quilts will be done by the end of March, so the embroidery can begin. She hopes they will be complete by about the end of May.

“We usually have 10 or 11 quilting with us, but we put out a call for help, and we’ve got 17 working with us now,” Love said. “In addition to that, there are other people who are helping. People have donated money to the project, and people have given cloth. It’s become quite a big effort.”

Love said they’re taking pictures as the quilts are made and hope to create a book to go along with them. That will add expense. Then they’ll have to get the blankets to Newtown. Persons interested in the project can visit the Comforting Quilters’ blog at comfortingquilters.blogspot.com or contact them at comfortingquilters@gmail.com.

Contact Michael W. Pannell at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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